An Unforgettable Christmas

Merry Christmas from Uganda!

It’s been an unforgettable kind of Christmas! Early this morning there was the sound of drumming coming from the church up the hill, letting everyone in the village know it was time to prepare ourselves.

After a cold shower and a hot breakfast of kartogo (plantains with g-nuts), we heard the second round of drumming, signaling that services would be starting soon.

It was time to get dressed and go. So off we went, me in the traditional dress, called a mushanana.

The church was already full of hundreds of village folks dressed in their Christmas best. We were escorted to sit on special benches up front reserved for those families visiting from Kampala. My presence as the only mzungu (white person) created a bit of a stir as we walked in.

The services were all in the local language (Rukiga), so Annet (my Ugandan mama) translated the main pieces to me.

We walked in when the Reverend was talking about climate change and the importance of taking care of the earth by planting trees. (They recently had severe flooding that destroyed many of their crops.)

An unexpected part of the service was when I was invited to the front and introduced to everyone. In their language! When handed the mic to greet them, I said the customary, “Hello,” waited for them to greet me in return, and then said, “God is good,” at which point the mic was taken from me and my words translated so they could all respond, “All the time.”

One of my favorite parts of the service was when, after collecting donations, they auctioned off the donations of produce, like pumpkins, beans, avocados, eggs, and even some baskets. It was fun to see the auctioneers working the stage and the bids.

Post church there was a lot of hanging around outside, greeting and being greeted by so many folks. Some extended family, others just happy to welcome me. Lots of kids came and stood nearby, staring. When I first walked up to them, some of them ran away. But not too far. Eventually they stayed close enough to shake hands with me. Some of them even ran after our car when we left, seeing how far they could follow us, laughing when I waved out the window to them.

Fast forward through some more family visits and another meal, and then there was the blissful peace of sitting outside, surrounded by all of this beauty; Annet washing clothes and listening to the radio as the rest of us read our new novels. (I’d gotten the girls new novels for Christmas.) When they played Christmas carols on the radio, we all sang along.

Another family constellation came to visit and busherra and bananas were served. The girls and I set our books aside and played cards with the young girl who was with them, named Moonlight.

I’m happily tired and grateful to have experienced Christmas, Ugandan-style. There are other layers to this story… a richness in each moment that fills me in a way I don’t yet have words for. So for now, I bid you a merry, peaceful and rich Christmas. May your heart be full and fed. 

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